Astra-Zeneca Vaccine And Blood Clots

There has been a great deal of uproar on the news media over the deaths of some people after receiving the first dose of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. They developed a rare form of low-platelet blood clot in the brain, and that was almost certainly associated with them receiving the vaccine. Any death is tragic, and someone dying after taking a vaccine to try to prevent contracting Covid-19 is in itself a terrible irony. My sympathies go to any family affected by this.

However, compared to the millions of people who have been vaccinated, the death rate is remarkably low from those clots. It is around a one in a million chance that it might happen. To put that into perspective, you have more chance of drowning in your own bath, or being killed by an aircraft crashing on your house.

So no baths, and no sitting in your house?

Some EU countries have now banned the use of that brand of vaccine, and the UK government is not going to give it to younger people, who seem to be at higher risk of the clots.

But before you decide not to have it, please think about the statistics.

More chance of being killed crossing the road outside your house.
More chance of being killed by being struck by lightning.
Much more chance of being killed whilst driving your car anywhere.
More chance of being killed in a train crash.
More chance of being killed by an allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting.

I could go on, but you get the point.

There has been no evidence that the second dose has caused any blood clots. So if you have already had the first one, then please go ahead and have the second one when it is offered.

The Nightingale Hospitals and Covid-19

When the government spent untold millions converting and equipping various large indoor spaces to provide specialist intensive care for for Coronavirus patients, everyone thought is was well done indeed. Using the Armed Services, the buildings were turned into hospitals in record time, and it was promised that they would take all the pressure off of regular hospitals, allowing them to continue to treat non-Covid cases.

That didn’t happen of course.

As the pandemic continued, and the death rate increased, little mention was made of the once-lauded Nightingale Hospitals. Then time passed, and it was discovered that they were actually empty of patients.

When pressed, the government claimed they would be used as testing centres instead.

Then they were going to be used as vaccination hubs.

Some journalists investigated, and found them closed up, guarded by security officers. When asked about this, the government claimed that they were being used to store PPE. And they didn’t even look embarrassed when they said that.

The government was lying all along. The Health Minister was lying all along. As they dished out lucrative contracts to their friends to stock the Nightingale Hospitals, most thought it a necessary expense to provide the care needed. But nobody told us when all the equipment was later removed, after only a tiny number of patients had actually been treated. Where is all that expensive equipment now? And what about the public money spent on the whole fiasco?

I found an article today that brings the woeful story of these ’emergency hospitals’ up to date. It makes interesting reading.

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/nightingale-hospitals-covid-patient-numbers_uk_605a0dd6c5b6cebf58d220eb?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-en-GB

Art: What I like

I have rarely discussed Art on this blog. However, I recently featured some Edward Hopper paintings, and that got me thinking about paintings that I love to look at. So here are some of them. I make no claim to know anything about painting, so cannot discuss technique, or other matters. As the old saying goes, “I may not know much about Art, but I know what I like”. (Gellet Burgess)

Jan Van Eyck (1390-1441) painted the Amolfini Portrait in 1434. It depicts an Italian merchant and his wife at their home in Brugues, Belgium. I love the detail, including the reflection in the mirror, and the small dog.

Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980) was a Polish portrait painter who spent her working life in France and America. She painted in the Art Deco style, using bold colours and including stylistic representations of the period. Here are some examples of her work, including her self-portait driving a car.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican artist who painted many self-portraits, never attempting to change her striking features. Disabled by Polio, then badly injured in a traffic accident, she was bedridden for years, and used art as therapy. Always politically active too, Frida was a member of The Communist Party. Here are two examples.

Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was the husband of Frida Kahlo, and a renowned Mexican artist best known for painting extensive murals. The following images are sections taken from much larger works.

Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935) was a Russian painter who was part of the Avant-Garde school. He was known for his colourful abstract images. I have a print of this one of his paintings, ‘The Red House’ (1932), but my wife doesn’t like it one bit, so it is in the loft.

Beryl Cook (1926-2008) was an English painter who specialised in larger-than-life figures, usually involved in various aspects of British social life. She injected great humour into her paintings, alongside acute observation of everyday activities. Here are two examples.

There you have a short insight into the kind of art I love to look at and admire. Feel free to mention your own favourites in the comments.

Life

Life. It can be a real pain sometimes.

Always something you don’t want to do, that needs to be done.

And some boring reason why you can’t do the thing you actually want to be doing.

Modern life is like a list of 80% things you don’t want to have to deal with.

10% of things that you can just about deal with without going out of your mind.

And 9% things that you actually enjoy doing, and want to keep doing. Whatever the consequences.

Oh, and that odd 1%?

That’s the mystery of life.

The Covid Passport

When someone receives the vaccination for Coronavirus, they are issued with a small card. Their details are also registered on the system, so it is recorded that they have been vaccinated.

Reading online about people who are going to refuse the vaccine, and knowing at least one member of my own close family who will not have it, I started to think about the potential repercussions of exercising your right not to be vaccinated.

That small card, and the computerised record that back it up, could well turn out to be your passport to a return to something like normal life in the not too distant future.

Imagine the restrictions that could be introduced on people who cannot prove they have been vaccinated.

Want to go and see a film, or a show at the theatre?
Show me your card.

Want to book a table at a restaurant?
Show me your card.

Want to use public transport?
Show me your card.

Want to book a foreign holiday, travelling by train, sea or air?
Show me your card.

Want to stay overnight in a hotel, motel, or B&B?
Show me your card.

Want to rent a car or van?
Show me your card.

Want to adopt a child?
Show me your card.

Want to register at a dentist?
Show me your card.

Want to have your hair cut, or a beauty treatment?
Show me you card.

Want to drink in a pub, or go into a nightclub?
Show me your card.

Want to take driving lessons or take the driving test?
Show me your card.

Want to apply for a job where you will be working with others?
Show me your card.

Want to study at a university, or college?
Show me your card.

I could go on. There are many more potential pitfalls of not being vaccinated.

Of course, none of this may happen. I have certainly not heard that is going to. There would need to be extra administration put into place, employment of more security guards and doormen, and then there will always be fake cards.

Nonetheless, if you are considering refusing the vaccine, I have some advice.

Think twice.

Thank you, Mr Welles

Reblogging this personal tribute to Orson Welles from 2013. Not many of you will have seen it before.

beetleypete

Orson Welles is considered by many to be the greatest film maker in history. I do not necessarily agree with that, although I do consider him to be one of the greatest actors of all time. His voice alone is worth a career, let alone his charismatic presence in a film.

As a very young man, I was captivated by him on film at the cinema, and on TV, when his films were shown there. His brief appearances in ‘The Third Man’, lift the film totally, and his wry grin steals every scene that he is in. Whatever you might think of him, his talent is surely indisputable, and from an early age, he showed the touch of genius that would characterise his life in cinema. The ensemble cast of his best known films, ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’, and ‘Citizen Kane’, was to follow him throughout his all too short film…

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Virus Deaths: One Story

I read something on a local newspaper website earlier this week. I went back to get a link to add here, but it has been taken down. Presumably to save the family from more distress.

We are all reading about deaths from the virus, all around the world. As the numbers get bigger, they stop becoming people, and are just numbers. I read that 1,000 people have died fom the virus in the USA. Can you imagine seeing 1,000 dead bodies laid out in a line? I once saw more than 20 bodies at the scene of a train crash. It looked like a lot of bodies. And I was an EMT, so used to seeing such things.

1,000 bodies arranged in a line would stretch almost 3,000 yards. That’s 1.7 miles. That distance would take almost 30 minutes to walk, at a normal pace. Hard to comprehend, I know.

So let’s just think about one person who died because of this virus, and the impact on his family.

A local man in his fifties had a mild heart attack last year. He had a stent procedure to open a coronary artery, was put on blood-thinning drugs, and sent home. He went back to work as normal, and returned home to his wife and two twenty-something children who still lived at the house. Just over a week ago, he woke up with a very high temperature, so stayed off work. The next day he had a very bad cough too. Covid-19 was suspected, and the call was made to the family doctor. That doctor decided to send an ambulance to take the man into the emergency department of the local main hospital.

He had to travel without his wife and family of course. They were not allowed to get close to him as he was taken to the ambulance, so no goodbye kisses. Then because they were in a house where those symptoms were found, they all had to self-isolate. Calling the hospital that night, they were told that he was ‘seriously ill’. The next day, someone called them to tell them he had died.

Imagine that. No goodbyes, no last moments together, no chance to comfort the man she had been married to for thirty years.

The funeral was just 24 hours later, a cremation arranged by a local undertaker. The family was informed that only ten mourners could attend. But as they were self-isolating, they were not allowed to go. Any relatives or friends that might usually have attended did not want to travel during this crisis. So the man was cremated in an empty facility. The undertaker sent a bill, adding that they understood it would be some time before payment could be made. The ashes would be sent to her in due course.

That’s it. Thirty years together comes down to three phone calls, and it’s all over.

Then the everyday problems begin. To get an official death certificate, you have to attend the appropriate department at the Town Hall, with the initial certificate given to you at the hospital. But you are self-isolating, and are not allowed out. Even if they could go out, the office is closed because of the lockdown of workplaces. And you would not be allowed into the hospital to collect their form, as you were too close to someone who died from Covid-19.

Without that death certificate, you cannot access the man’s bank account or savings. Cannot cancel his credit card, or any other payments still going out of his account. You cannot make a claim on his life insurance, sell his car, or do a dozen other things that have crossed your mind will need doing.

On top of your grief, you have to deal with all that stuff too.

Then there is the worry. What about me? What about the chldren? Will we get it now? You can’t seek comfort from relatives and friends either, because you are not allowed out. Anyway, it wouldn’t be a good idea, even if you were.

In the last 24 hours in Spain, 832 people died. Imagine that story above, mutiplied by that figure.

That’s the reality. Are you scared yet? You should be.

Yes still, social media is showing people, mostly young people and teenagers, who think it is funny to spit on food in supermarkets, or rub their saliva over the handles on public transport. Parcel delivery people spitting on parcels that they then hand to a recipient, idiots licking toilet seats, some deliberately touching things in shops then replacing them, and even claiming that Covid-19 is a hoax, and doesn’t exist. Some of those videos have been shared over half a million times, watched by giggling youngsters who think it is all a great joke.

Try telling that to the wife of the man who died near here this week.

McDonald’s: The Last Bastion Falls

Rutland is the smallest county in England. Only 17 miles long by 18 miles wide, it is land-locked, and has a population of less than 40,000.

It has just two towns of any size, Oakham and Uppingham. The most significant feature of the county is a huge artificial lake, Rutland Water. This is a nature reserve, and an important site for wildlife, especially breeding birds.

But Rutland is also famous for something else. It is the ONLY county in England that does not have a McDonald’s restaurant. The attractive historical streets of Oakham and Uppinham do offer a selection of cafes and restaurants, as well as many privately-owned traditional shops. But no fast-food outlets have ever been allowed to spoil the area.

That might all change, at a local Council meeting this evening. On a site just outside the town of Oakham, the burger giant has requested planning permission to build a 24-hour drive through restaurant. One of the larger types that have been seen here over the past couple of years. The benefits to the community are more than being able to buy some chicken nuggets at two in the morning. In an area of high unemployment, sixty new jobs will be generated, and valuable taxes paid into the local economy by the American company too.

Poorer families in the area will be able to take advantage of ‘meal deals’ and cheaper fast food, without having to drive into neighbouring counties to do so.

The population of Rutland appears to be divided by the issue. Existing cafes and restaurants will undoubtedly suffer, especially in the long term. Rubbish will be generated by thoughtless customers flinging it from car windows, or dumping it around the town. And it is inevitable that other jobs will be lost in eating establishments that cannot compete with the popularity of McDonald’s.

As I type this, it seems likely that the Town Council will approve the application tonight, and building will start. I would not deny that the town needs jobs, or that people should be able to buy a Big Mac if they want one.

But I am sad. Sad that the smallest county in my country, the only one to have never approved a McDonald’s, has finally succumbed to globalisation.

Alexa, Google, and Cookies: The frightening reality

I don’t have a ‘digital assistant’. But my wife used to have ‘Google Assistant’ active on her phone. She liked that it allowed her to ask her phone a question, without having to type it in.

Many people love their ‘Amazon Alexa’, using it to do many things in their lives, especially to remind them of appointments or dates, or to play music.

We all know that ‘Cookies’ trace what we search for online, and most of the sites we browse on the Internet. We can refuse to allow Cookies in the main, though that will often mean you are unable to look at something, for example a news website in full.

In our modern society, many people complain about the intrusion into our lives. Excessive CCTV, tracking of credit card use, tracking of bus and train ticket use, and much more. Unless you walk everywhere, and keep all your money in a box under your bed, you can be sure that your habits are being tracked, like it or not.

But the ‘digital assistants’ take this to another level, and in my opinion, one that should cause us all concern.

Here are two examples of why I believe this to be true.

Earlier this week, we were watching TV in the evening. My wife’s phone was connected to the home wi-fi, but she wasn’t using it at the time. It was sitting on a side table, the screen black. During a break in the programme, she turned to me and started to talk about what had happened in the first part. Just general chit-chat, nothing too private. The screen on her phone lit up, and she picked it up, presuming someone was calling, or sending a text.

She was shocked to see that her phone was typing what she had been saying. She turned to me and said, “It’s typing everything I have just been talking about”. As she said that, it continued to type those words too. She went into settings, and disabled Google Assistant. The phone didn’t like that, and popped up a warning that ‘You will be unable to access many features of your phone if you do this”. If it could have spoken those words, I have no doubt it would have sounded very much like the voice of Big Brother, in the film of Orwell’s novel.

Once it had been uninstalled, she was unable to find where it had stored what it had been typing. Her words had disappeared into the Great Google Hard Drive, somewhere in America, presumably.

This morning, we were unpacking a parcel. It was a buggy and car seat combination that we had ordered for my step-daughter’s new baby, due in two weeks. As we struggled with the huge carton, my wife’s phone rang, and it was her daughter. A happy coincidence. They switched their phones to the Facebook equivalent of face-time, and she was shown the cartons laid out on the carpet. As they carried on chatting, I went back into the office room to continue checking on blog posts.

I had been reading one from Lobotero, concerning ISIS and Iran. Scrolling down to the end, an advertisement popped up at the bottom of his site.

It was for the exact same buggy and car seat combination. The same model, and the same colour. Stupidly, it suggested I should order one, and even offered a discount voucher. Perhaps they thought I would buy two of them, for one baby?

Of greater concern was the fact that Facebook had obviously been monitoring my wife’s phone camera activity on their site. In less than forty seconds, that had generated an large advertisement on the website of an unconnected American blogger, directly targeted at me.

If they can do that, I have to wonder what else they can do.

Things I don’t like

Back on the ‘Reblogging Trail’, I found this old post from 2013. Only three of you have seen it, I think.
I was quite outspoken back then! Look how much I have calmed down now. 🙂

beetleypete

I saw a bit of a TV programme called Room 101. Minor celebrities compete to get things they hate put into ‘Room 101’ by the host, symbolising the removal of those things, on a permanent basis. It is supposed to be funny, and it isn’t at all. However, it got me thinking about things that I would like to ban, or make disappear, and here is a short list of them.

Centre Lane drivers. On a three lane motorway, there are always drivers who insist on never moving out of the middle lane. They usually drive quite slowly, or just on the legal limit, making it hard for slow lorries to get out of the left lane, or for other drivers who have overtaken them, to move back in safely. Even when there is no traffic, say during the early hours of the morning, they still hug this middle lane…

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